Characterizing Ben Sollee's music with any precision is a challenge, since it fuses elements from a wide variety of sources. In describing his music, Sollee told Jim Fusilli of the Wall Street Journal that, "Phrasing-wise, [it's a] free story-telling style of singing where it's about moving the storyline along. [My influences have been] Paul Simon, Nina Simone, Ani DiFranco, Louis Armstrong, Lauryn Hill, Sam Cooke, Phoebe Snow."Other Influences have included Mark Summer, Bela Fleck, Victor Wooten, and Pete Seeger.
Sollee's Music has been said to observe no limits. [Bill Weigandt, Wooden Box] His songs are eclectic in that they draw elements from a broad range of recognizable genre's of music, even with the scope of a single song. The amalgamation of these disparate elements seems to be done subconsciously. The internal coherence of the compositions manages to sustain them against any impression of artifice. Subject to the song varies widely—from expressive love songs (e.g., "Copper and Malachite"), to the lamentations of a long-serving prisoner ("Captivity"), to the burning of London's historic Globe Theatre ("The Globe"). A notable feature of Sollee's songs that the lyrics are of co-equal importance with the music.
Sollee's cello work is the element that seems to most impact audiences that have not previously seen him perform. The initial reaction is often one of surprise, if not shock, since most listeners' familiarity with the cello, if any, is in classical settings, primarily with an orchestra. Sollee shows up in a T-shirt instead of a tux. He plucks the cello's strings as frequently as he bows them, plays without printed music, and rarely concentrates his gaze on the instrument while performing. Mostly, he is singing, coordinating with his fellow performers, and connecting with the audience, in much the same manner that many guitar players do. In response to a probe about the uniqueness of what he is doing as a musician, Sollee has said he's "just continued with stuff that's been going on in banjo, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and bass." In explaining his bond to the cello, Sollee told CNN interviewer that the cello is "a great Swiss Army Knife...It always does the different things I need it to do in ensembles. I can take the lead. I can play rhythm. It always creates a sound that works in the environment I'm playing in." Sollee's relation to the cello is so intimate that appears almost organic, as if the instrument were merely an extension of his body. (Jon Rieger, Wooden Box)